The time has come in our Best Seasons blog series to examine a team that has never won a World Series. All the teams we've written about so far have at least one title to their name, but there are six teams who have never won a championship, and the Milwaukee Brewers are one of them.
The Brewers haven't been around for a long time by MLB standards. Their first season was in 1969, and in their 51 seasons, they've had some successes. They won the NL pennant in 1982, but lost the World Series 4-3 against the Cardinals. They've made it to the NLCS twice in the past decade, but haven't been able to squeak out a win either time.
When it came time to determine which year was the best season in Brewers' history, it was actually a tough call. It came down to two separate seasons - 2011 and 2018.
Both of these years are actually very similar, but only one can stand out as the best Brewers team of all-time.
Milwaukee won 96 games in both 2011 and 2018, but their winning percentage was slightly higher in 2011. During the 2018 season, the Brewers finished tied in the standings with the Cubs, forcing a one-game playoff to decide the NL Central champion. Because they played that one extra game, the 2011 winning percentage is a few points higher than the 2018 team.
Not only did the Brewers win the same amount of games each year, their stats were also very similar. In 2011 the team batted .261/.325/.425 with 185 total home runs. The 2018 team finished the season hitting .252/.323/.424 with 218 home runs. The ratio stats were slightly higher in 2011 while the total home runs saw an increase in 2018.
The pitching stats aren't too far off either. The 2011 Brewers pitching staff finished the season with a 3.63 ERA and 1,257 strikeouts. The 2018 team had an ERA of 3.73 with 1,428 strikeouts.
Now, over the past few years, strikeouts and home runs have increased across the league, so that should be taken into account when looking at these statistics.
So let's look at some of the other notable events from these seasons. In 2011, the Brewers had three players make the All-Star roster. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and and Ryan Braun all started for the National League in the game. The 2018 team had five players make the All-Star team, but they were all reserves.
As for the awards voting, here is where I think the decision is made. The 2011 Brewers had two pitchers - Yovani Gallardo and John Axford - finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. The 2018 Brewers had one pitcher finish in the top 10.
Now get this - both teams had that season's NL MVP on the roster. Ryan Braun won the award in 2011 while Christian Yelich won it in 2018. But, the 2011 also had Prince Fielder, who finished third in MVP voting.
If we look at Braun and Yelich's stats, these seasons get even more similar. Braun hit .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs in 2011. Yelich finished the 2018 season batting .326/.402/.598 with 36 home runs and 110 RBIs. However, Braun finished with 7.7 WAR while Yelich had 7.3.
This is a really tough one to decide, but due to the 2011 Brewers winning their division by six games, having two players finish in the top three in MVP voting and having three starters on the All-Star roster, 2011 is the best Brewers season in history. The 2011 season was also Milwaukee's first division championship since 1982, breaking a 30-year drought for the Brewers.
It's eerie how similar these teams were in terms of stats and wins. Both teams had great success on the field and both will go down in Brewers history, but only one can be considered the best season that Milwaukee has ever had, and that title has to go to the 2011 team.